Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Shift at the FDA

One of my old posts that has been getting readers’ attention again this month is “Health Care Cost Avoidance: New Incentives for Congress.” This was something I wrote after Congress had moved to take more responsibility for health care costs. I predicted that budget pressures on Congress would lead to greater resistance in the future to policies that cause illness, as more of the costs of that illness would fall within the federal budget. I specifically predicted new pressures on the FDA:

Some of the more embarrassing failures of the health care system, like last year’s H1N1 flu vaccine debacle, may come in for more scrutiny now that the government is on the hook for a greater fraction of the failures caused by medical misadventures. The Food and Drug Administration (or its successor for drug regulation) may come under more pressure not to approve prescription drugs that are a risk to create serious or long-term illness in the people who use them.

When I think over the news stories of the last three years, it seems to me that this is happening in a small way already. The FDA in recent years is less likely to approve new drugs that cause illnesses more serious than the ones they cure and quicker to restrict and withdraw drugs that are doing harm to consumers. It is a shift I am sure will pick up a few years from now after Congress realizes how the FDA’s actions, intended to boost private industry, are creating a multibillion dollar hole in the federal budget.

This shift will eventually reach the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Agriculture too. Some of the “public health” campaigns that actually don’t improve health so much as they boost corporate profits will be scaled back, and some of the recent approvals of genetically modified crops will certainly be withdrawn after the health care costs are added up.